Wilton to receive gift of AEDs

Wilton will be one of five communities to share a gift of 100 AEDs (automated external defibrillators) from Westporters MaryGrace and Mark Gudis and Norwalk Hospital. The announcement on Tuesday, Nov. 17, follows a recent incident in Westport where a tragedy likely was averted by having an AED nearby.

An AED is a portable device that delivers an electrical shock to a heart that is not beating with the intent of restoring normal electrical activity so the heart will beat again.

On Oct. 23, a 17-year-old student experienced sudden cardiac arrest while at a sporting event at Staples High School. Mark Gudis, a Norwalk Hospital trustee and Staples parent, had an AED in his car and took immediate action while school athletic trainers and two parents performed CPR and called 9-1-1. The student survived.

The other communities sharing in the gift are New Canaan, Norwalk, Westport, and Weston. A spokesperson for the hospital said before the AEDs can be delivered a hospital team will connect with Wilton’s municipal and school officials to collect information on how many AEDs the town has and where it would like to put more. The team will focus on schools and public playing fields, she said.

After reviewing information from all the towns, a decision will be made on how many AEDs each town will receive. That is expected early next year.

Wilton has approximately 35 AEDs in place all the time, with five AEDs in place at playing fields during the lacrosse season.

MaryGrace and Mark Gudis, together with Norwalk Hospital and the Norwalk Hospital Foundation, have formed an awareness campaign to promote the need for more AEDs and CPR training in communities.

“Given this latest near tragedy, and others in our communities, it is very apparent we need more AEDs in our schools, on our athletic fields and in our community centers,” Mark Gudis said in a press release.

“AEDs need to be easily accessible and within reach, because minutes matter in situations of sudden cardiac arrest,” said MaryGrace Gudis, a foundation director. “Providing AEDs is only one part of the solution; we need to be proactive in preventing tragedies and not simply reactive once an event occurs. We should be thinking about expanding training and examining the resources within the schools and our communities.”  

Sudden cardiac arrest is a leading cause of death in the United States, affecting nearly 400,000 people each year, according to Matt Soicher, director of EMS at Norwalk Hospital. Fewer than 1 in 10 survive. Sudden cardiac arrest occurs when the electrical system of the heart malfunctions, resulting in a very irregular and potentially fatal heart rhythm. Using AEDs and performing CPR immediately (within a few minutes) can greatly impact the victim’s chance of survival.

“Although many of our communities are designated as Heart Safe, there is still a need for AEDs to be deployed throughout the area and be available when needed,” Soicher said. “In addition, we cannot underestimate how important it is for the general public to learn Hands Only CPR and to call 9-1-1 for immediate assistance in an emergency.”